pink peony

pink peony
old-fashioned peony

Tuesday, April 23, 2013



Late last year, we laid an old friend to rest. The old pole barn had been functional and had served its purpose for many years, but it was plum worn out. Its green metal skin had long ago faded to gray, and the galvanized roof had been patched and repainted many times, but the real problem was within -- the old barn's skeleton had reached the point of collapse. It seemed to be just waiting for a strong wind to topple it over. So we took the old barn down, piece by piece, giving it the dignified end it deserved.
And now, rising from the old barn's footprint, we've built a new one. Most of our farm construction projects utilize long-lasting, practical steel these days. But for this barn, I pled my case for a real, old-fashioned wooden barn, like the ones that all farms used to boast. As I've watched many of the venerable old barns in the Ozarks disappear, I've felt the loss keenly. The old wooden barns had such stories to tell; often, they were the first structure to rise on a farmstead, being so necessary to the work that would make a place sustainable. But like the strong, hardworking farmers who built them, time took its toll and decay was inevitable.
I had an ulterior motive when we planned the new barn, a little dream I'd been nourishing. Traveling through the Upper Midwest in recent years, we always admired the big old barns that have been lovingly preserved on many of the farms. And what really captured my attention was the addition of a certain type of ornamentation that made us throw on the brakes for a longer look: barn quilts! In Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, there are dozens and dozens, even hundreds in some counties, of old barns sporting unique wooden panels, brightly painted with colorful quilt patterns. Even on the most humble, rustic barn, a beautiful Churn Dash or Nine Patch or Log Cabin quilt block called for a second look.
Our barn necessarily faces east, because of the adjoining corral and pens, so placing a quilt block on the side facing the road was not possible. But the area under the gable eave was a logical place. I began to research how to do it, eventually talking to barn quilt artists in Iowa and Kentucky and pooling their suggestions. The new barn loft door became my canvas.
I started my project when the barn construction was completed. The blank door was set on sawhorses, and I set to work. First, I gave the wood (which is the kind of product that the highway department uses for its road signs, ordered from our local lumberyard) a good coat of exterior primer. Then I used a pencil to sketch the pattern. I chose a Double Pinwheel, just because I've always liked pinwheel quilts. And then I carefully taped off sections with frog tape and went to work.
I painted the largest pieces of the block first, the blue triangles.
Next came the red triangles. Each of the four colors received three coats of paint, and the red, which did not seem to cover as well, had four coats.
Finally, after about three weeks of painting, drying, painting and drying, I was satisfied with the result. The door was ready to hang!
What fun it was, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, to stand on the ground below and see the door placed on its hinges and swing into place!
Our very own Barn Quilt!
If you're traveling west on Highway 95 past our farm, I hope you'll carefully slow down and see Ozark County's first Barn Quilt. I'm very pleased with how it looks.
And now I have this other little dream ... that more Barn Quilts might appear on more Ozark County barns in the coming months. And they might spread to neighboring counties. Why, I think we could even have an Ozarks Barn Trail, which folks would drive from near and far to see.
If you're interested, contact me and I'll happily share just how I did it. The possibilities (colors, patterns, size) are endless. Any barn (or even a shed) would benefit from a little dressing up!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

God calling...

I have heard ths phrase a lot lately -- I guess there are books or blogs or some other sort of writing with this title. Or maybe it is "Jesus calling..." I don't know much about these writings because I haven't had time to check them out. But the snippets I've seen are always intriguing and to the point.

As I was walking along my usual path back through the long hayfield this morning, I realized I heard something new -- not a sweet trilling bird call or the rumble of thunder or one of the cows bawling for her baby to come running -- it was God calling. Calling me and telling me some things I needed to hear. And as I listened, something else occurred to me. It took me being out there, away from the house and its dirty floors and dusty tabletops and ringing telephone and bleeping computer, to hear God calling me.

Walking is the way I can exercise, but I'm not very consistent about it. I am too busy -- or it has rained and my trail is too muddy -- or it's too cold -- or some other excuse, of which there is always one. I walk for a couple of weeks and then I get off track (no pun intended!) What a shame that one of the easiest, best things I can do for myself is something I neglect so often!

But after this morning, I will have a new perspective on my morning walk. As I tie my shoelaces, I will look forward to a chat with my Father, not in my "closet," but out in His creation. This just might be the best incentive ever for getting out there and hitting the trail!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A visit to our neighbors' farm

Our evening adventure started with an email that I read when we got home from church. My busy, funny and very sweet neighbor, Cleta, had promised to let us know when we could come and see lambs; and she had also offered to let me buy some of her excess hens. In typical Cleta fashion, this was the message:

about done lambing
have about 50 when you want to bring the grandkids
while i was out of town the boys did not close the hen house till late: a possum moved in and killed about 10 of the hens.
he literally moved in: i found him, obese and well fed, under the laying boxes.
i dragged his little hiney out with a rake and shot him about 10 times: once for each hen!
so i only have maybe 2 for sale>
must be extra good ones
they survived the holocaust

After the farmboy and I laughed and laughed -- and then laughed some more -- at the thought of tiny Cleta doing battle with Mean Mr Possum, we made arrangements for a trip to her farm.

Could there possibly be anything sweeter than baby lambs?

The only thing sweeter might be baby boys who think it is grand to be barefoot outside in the grass with lambs bleating on the other side of the fence --

Cleta's little lambs are truly adorable. The mamas were very protective but we were able to get up close and personal with a couple of the older ones.

Wyatt had his hands full with this one which is about two weeks old.
Each mama bleats in her own unique voice and her babies know it and respond when she calls.

Cleta only allows her ewes to be bred once a year, with the result being that most all are multiple births. There were mostly twins in the flock, but also quite a few triplets. Cleta said, "What was God thinking when He only gave the ewes two teats???"

This little guy received extra attention from Cleta when she realized he might not be getting his fair share. He was supplemented by bottle for about 10 days, and now he is thriving on his own.

Wyatt and Addie got a wonderful lesson this afternoon from a willing teacher.
Remember the rest of the email relating the doins' of that sorry chicken thief, Mr Possum? After admiring the lambs, we visited the survivors of his chicken-holocaust and congratulated them.
We couldn't leave the Sweeney's farm without Wyatt making a quick climb up into the cab of Mr. Sean's huge loader.
 Thanks, Cleta, for sharing a slice of your interesting, busy life!